Lag Liv has a thread going on her site answering a potential 1L's question about if she should go to law school. I thought I would post my response for you all as well. Feel free to reply with your own opinions. This is the time of year when people are applying (and panicking) so let's see if we can help them out.
Before I post my answer, let me say one thing: you really can make your own experience in law school. Don't do what they tell you to do for jobs, seminars, whatever. My experience is rich because of the following:
1. Starting my own club
2. Belonging to an LGBT club (I'm an ally and this is important to me)
3. Belonging to a club and state organization for criminal defense lawyers (which helped me get an internship BEFORE grades even came out)
4. Pro bono clinics for landlord tenant/employment and other low-income issues, LGBT issues, immigration issues
Law school is not the right path for MOST people. The reasons below explain why I think this is true.
For me, law school was the best decision. In-state tuition, a spouse who works for the school (half tuition!) and therefore has benefits and a salary to cover my not working. We rent, not own, and have one child. For me, being able to pay 10k a year for law school was such a good deal that even if I couldn't get a high-paying job it was worth it.
That being said, how many people are really in that situation?
Really, at least one answer should be yes to the following:
1. Does your spouse make enough to work when you aren't AND pay roughly 1000 a month for your loan payment?
2. Do you have any savings which could offset some of your cost so you can borrow less?
3. Can you wait a year or so to save up a year's worth of tuition or living expenses for after you graduate? (Plus you need lots of $$ to live while taking the bar/before being admitted/to be admitted & pay bar dues.)
4. Do you know anyone who can get you a job when you graduate?
5. Are you open-minded (not completely set on one specific job or type of law)?
6. Are you willing to work for free for one (if not all) summers between semesters?
7. Can you handle working harder than you've ever worked in your life and still get a B?
8. Do you have any idea what lawyers do all day? (Law and Order does not count)
9. Do you REALLY want to be a lawyer? If you just don't know what else to do with your life or you have only a slight interest in law, you should seriously consider other paths. Without passion for the subject, you will be miserable doing the work.
I love law school. People say they hate it, hated 1L etc. I do not get these people. I love love love it. Love the reading, the teachers, my classmates. If you have that kind of positive attitude in spite of pressure and hard work, AND you know for sure you want to be a lawyer I say go for it (provided you answered yes to some of the above.)
Most people do not have both the drive and the resources to enjoy the law school experience. I know so many who can't get a job and don't even want to do law, but have put themselves in such a bad financial position they have no choice. Don't limit yourself by committing to something you don't really even want.
Finally, ask a lawyer to work for them for free for a month or two. They'll be happy to share their experiences and give you an idea of what it is REALLY like.